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Learn from legal expert, Harrison Barnes
Don’t just take it from us
Since the Mayflower Compact, the law has had a substantial presence in America. It is grounded in precedent; adherence to the doctrine of stare decisis is an attractive, if not paramount, value. The law itself creates tradition; it should not be surprising that the legal profession represents a bastion of tradition. Most lawyers accept the traditions of the profession or at most give fleeting thought to challenging them. Today, however, a new generation of lawyers is breaking traditions and, as a result, redefining the practice of law.
American legal institutions traditionally have been resistant to change. But for decades American society has been changing, and not surprisingly this evolutionary process has slowly infiltrated the practice of law. Many of the traditions of law practice are on a collision course with the demands being placed on individual lawyers by family and with those lawyers' desires for personal health, happiness, and mental satisfaction.
Tradition-bound law firms are experiencing dissatisfaction with inflexible work arrangements and a system that treats human resources as commodities. They cannot continue to overlook the cost of dysfunctional relationships and terminations or, conversely, the long-term benefits of alternative work arrangements. Nonproductive traditions must be shed in favor of modern attitudes that foster dialogue, awareness, work satisfaction, and joie de vivre.
Until the 1970s, the traditional bench and bar were small in number, clubby by nature.
Because individuals could effectively police their peers, trust, respect, and professionalism were prevalent. Societal values, well defined, were reflected in the predictable arrangements and attitudes of private law firm members, corporate counsel, and government employees. Lawyers could "be at the office" during normal working hours and much longer thanks to spouses who cared for the children and a generally less frenetic pace in life. Associates who worked diligently became partners; partners who worked diligently moved up the seniority ladder. Firm loyalty almost always superseded an individual's craving to open a shop or advance through lateral moves.
For the most part, clients paid their bills for law services without question; after all, clients knew the lawyer personally and/or were charged for the value of services rendered.
Though it has never been easy to practice law, 40 or even 50 years ago it was at least predictable that a lawyer would